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    • 2017-09-20 11:05:44
    • Article ID: 681478

    UAH leads effort that secures $20 million grant from the National Science Foundation

    • Credit: Michael Mercier / UAH

      Dr. Gary Zank, director of UAH’s Center for Space Plasma and Aeronomic Research and chair of the university’s Department of Space Science, is the Principal Investigator on the project.

    A partnership comprising nine universities in Alabama, including The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) as the lead institution, has been awarded a $20 million, five-year grant by the National Science Foundation’s Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR).

    The grant will fund the development of new predictive plasma-surface interaction technologies for the nation’s aerospace, manufacturing, energy, environment, and agricultural sectors. Serving as a Principal Investigator on the project is Dr. Gary Zank, director of UAH’s Center for Space Plasma and Aeronomic Research and chair of the university’s Department of Space Science.

    Dr. Zank, a member of the National Academy of Sciences, said he views the award as a statewide team effort. “It’s not something that could have been done by one person at all. All the co-principal investigators and the institutional leads were outstanding.”

    Zank also credited UAH Vice President for Research and Economic Development Ray Vaughn and his team. “They were outstanding in providing all of the help and resources that we needed to pull the proposal together, and the Alabama EPSCoR committee – led by Dr. Christopher Lawson – went out of their way to provide us with both assistance and expertise.” 

    Ronald Gray, President pro tem of the Board of Trustees of The University of Alabama System, praised Dr. Zank and his team on the accomplishment.

    “Congratulations to Dr. Gary Zank and his team on the new National Science Foundation research award,” Gray said. “In recognition of his global achievements in teaching, research and innovation, Dr. Zank was recently named Trustee Professor, which is the highest award for a faculty member in The University of Alabama System.

    “For more than 30 years, our three UA System campuses have been carving a leading edge in research through the EPSCoR consortium, improving education, the economy and scientific knowledge to benefit our state and nation. This new award will bolster the science and engineering infrastructure here in Alabama and promote workforce development. The Board of Trustees is committed to building the knowledge-based economy in Alabama, and we commend Dr. Zank and his colleagues for their breakthrough research to achieve our shared goal.”

    Entitled “Connecting the Plasma Universe to Plasma Technology in Alabama: The Science and Technology of Low-Temperature Plasma” (CPU2AL), the project seeks to understand, predict, and control the transfer of power from electromagnetic fields to electrons, ions, atoms, molecules and surfaces, and chemical reactions in plasma.

    “Most technologies based on low-temperature plasma are developed empirically, yet low-temperature plasma constitutes more than 90 percent of all matter in the universe, making it the bedrock of much of space physics, non-fusion plasma research, and plasma astrophysics,” he explains. “It also underpins the entire information technology industry as well as most high-tech materials-related manufacturing industries.”

    By leveraging Alabama’s strengths in fundamental low-temperature plasma science, the research team hopes instead to develop new predictive plasma-surface interaction technologies. “CPU2AL addresses two major challenges facing low-temperature plasma science today,” says Dr. Zank. “The first is incorporating the full complexity of particle kinetics and energy flow into theory, models, and experiment, and the second is modeling the transfer of energy mediated by collective processes such as turbulence and self-organization. It’s understanding and controlling these processes that ultimately determines the utility of low-temperature plasma.”

    The team plans to address these two challenges by developing three strategic research thrusts. The first is a basic understanding of plasma kinetics, which will determine how distribution functions of ionized and neutral species are formed and what the appropriate kinetic and fluid descriptions are of electrons, ions, and neutrals in low-temperature plasma space, laboratory, and industrial plasma. This is turn will enable the development of diagnostics that measure plasma properties in low-temperature plasma far from equilibrium.

    The second is a basic understanding of collective processes in order to develop models of waves, instabilities, nonlinear processes, turbulence, and self-organization in low-temperature plasma that will enable the creation and control of large volumes of quiescent plasma or highly localized turbulent states for the manipulation of physical, thermal, electrical and chemical processes. This, in turn, will facilitate the development of efficient numerical algorithms to model collective effects that influence microwave/THz/laser-produced plasma used in fast electronic devices, directed energy systems, plasmonic, and optoelectronic devices.

    And the third is a basic understanding of plasma interactions with solid, liquid, and soft matter (biomaterials) and bio-matter (seeds and food) surfaces, which has a twofold purpose. It will determine what plasma species, concentrations, spatial distributions, and gas/electron temperatures are associated with the synthesis of novel covalently-bonded 2-D and 3-D super-hard structures in the C/N/O/B system, as well as how large-area deposition of these super-hard materials can be achieved. And it will determine the processes responsible for the plasma activation of prosthetic biomaterials that do not affect their bioactivity for use in prosthetic biomaterials, tissue scaffolds of complicated geometry, and seed disinfection and food safety.

    Along with UAH, the partnership includes the University of Alabama (lead: Dr. R. Branam), the University of Alabama at Birmingham (lead: Dr. Y. Vohra), Auburn University (lead: Dr. E. Thomas), Tuskegee University (lead: Dr. V. Rangari), the University of South Alabama (lead: Dr. E. Spencer), Alabama A&M University (leads: Dr. R. Mentreddy and Dr. E. Cebert), Alabama State University (lead: Dr. K. Vig), and Oakwood University (lead: Dr. A. Volkov), with additional assistance from CFD Research Corporation (lead: Dr. V. Kolobov), a computational fluid dynamics software company located in Cummings Research Park. These members bring “a range of expertise in space science, laboratory plasma physics, materials, biosciences, and manufacturing to this endeavor,” says Dr. Zank. “And any gaps we may have in personnel expertise will be filled with the addition of five new faculty hires over the duration of the grant.”

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    Stronger, lighter, greener

    A new award-winning magnet technology invented at the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory could help drive the nation's transition from gas-powered vehicles to electric and hybrid power more rapidly, at lower cost, and in a more environmentally friendly way.

    Science Up-Close: Developing a Cookbook for Efficient Fusion Energy

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    An effect that Einstein helped discover 100 years ago offers new insight into a puzzling magnetic phenomenon

    Experiments at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory have seen for the first time what happens when magnetic materials are demagnetized at ultrafast speeds of millionths of a billionth of a second: The atoms on the surface of the material move, much like the iron bar did. The work, done at SLAC's Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) X-ray laser, was published in Nature earlier this month.

    Found: A precise method for determining how waves and particles affect fusion reactions

    Like surfers catching ocean waves, particles within plasma can ride waves oscillating through the plasma during fusion energy experiments. Now a team of physicists led by PPPL has devised a faster method to determine how much this interaction contributes to efficiency loss in tokamaks.

    Discovery adapts natural membrane to make hydrogen fuel from water

    In a recent study from the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory, scientists have combined two membrane-bound protein complexes to perform a complete conversion of water molecules to hydrogen and oxygen.

    How Plants Regulate Sugar Deposition in Cell Walls

    Identified genes involved in plant cell wall polysaccharide production and restructuring could aid in engineering bioenergy crops.


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    Top 10 Discoveries of 2018

    Every year, the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory compiles a list of the biggest advances made by the Lab's staff scientists, engineers, and visiting researchers. From uncovering mysteries of the universe to building better batteries, here, in no particular order, are our picks for the top 10 discoveries of 2018.

    U.S. Department of Energy Announces $33 Million for Small Business Research and Development Grants

    The U.S. Department of Energy announced it will award 189 grants totaling $33 million to 149 small businesses in 32 states.

    DOE to Provide $16 Million for New Research into Atmospheric and Terrestrial Processes

    The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced a plan to provide $16 million for new observational research aimed at improving the accuracy of today's climate and earth system models.

    Machine learning award powers Argonne leadership in engine design

    When attempting to design engines to be more fuel-efficient and emissions-free, automotive manufacturers have to take into account all the complexity inherent in the combustion process.

    ORNL partners with industry to address multiple nuclear technology challenges

    The Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory is collaborating with industry on six new projects focused on advancing commercial nuclear energy technologies that offer potential improvements to current nuclear reactors and move new reactor designs closer to deployment.

    Lithium earns honors for three physicists working to bring the energy that powers the sun to Earth

    Feature describes research of three PPPL physicists who have won the laboratory's 2018 outstanding research awards

    DOE approves technical plan and cost estimate to upgrade Argonne facility; Project will create X-rays that illuminate the atomic scale, in 3D

    The U.S. Department of Energy has approved the technical scope, cost estimate and plan of work for an upgrade of the Advanced Photon Source, a major storage-ring X-ray source at Argonne.

    Costas Soukoulis elected to National Academy of Inventors

    Costas Soukoulis, Ames Laboratory senior scientist and Iowa State University Frances M. Craig Endowed Chair and Distinguished Professor, has been named as a 2018 National Academy of Inventors (NAI) Fellow.

    Biophysicist F. William Studier Elected Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors

    F. William Studier, a Senior Biophysicist Emeritus at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory and Adjunct Professor of Biochemistry at Stony Brook University, has been elected as a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI). He is among 148 renowned academic inventors being recognized by NAI for 2018.

    Blast to the future

    A grant from DOE's Technology Commercialization Fund will help researchers at Argonne and industry partners seek improvements to U.S. manufacturing by making discovery and design of new materials more efficient.


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    Rapid Lake Draining on Ice Sheets Changes How Water Moves in Unexpected Ways

    Widespread fracturing during lake drainage triggers vertical shafts to form that affect the Greenland Ice Sheet.

    New Historical Emissions Trends Estimated with the Community Emissions Data System

    The data system will allow for more detailed, consistent, and up-to-date global emissions trends that will aid in understanding aerosol effects.

    Peering into the Mist: How Water Vapor Changes Metal at the Atomic Level

    New insights into molecular-level processes could help prevent corrosion and improve catalytic conversion.

    Microbial Types May Prove Key to Gas Releases from Thawing Permafrost

    Scientists discover key types of microbes that degrade organic matter and release carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere.

    New Method Knocks Out Yeast Genes with Single-Point Precision

    Researchers can precisely study how different genes affect key properties in a yeast used industrially to produce fuel and chemicals.

    How Plants Regulate Sugar Deposition in Cell Walls

    Identified genes involved in plant cell wall polysaccharide production and restructuring could aid in engineering bioenergy crops.

    Scientists Identify Gene Cluster in Budding Yeasts with Major Implications for Renewable Energy

    How yeast partition carbon into a metabolite may offer insights into boosting production for biofuels.

    More Designer Peptides, More Possibilities

    A combined experimental and modeling approach contributes to understanding small proteins with potential use in industrial, therapeutic applications.

    Deep Learning for Electron Microscopy

    Artificial intelligence on Summit to discover atomic-scale structures.

    Clarifying Rates of Methylmercury Production

    New model provides more accurate estimates of how fast microbes produce a mercury-based neurotoxin.


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